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Author Topic: James Reviews  (Read 2155 times)

doki

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James Reviews
« on: 28 Jan 2008, 04:19 »

ok, so i've been writing some old game reviews, and im looking for criticism/tips on how i can do them better.  so I'm posting them here.  They are also on my myspace site, but that's less than important.

First, one for a game i hate:
There are some people in the world who will tell you the most intense pain is having your heart broken by a loved one.  These people are mostly ladies, and to a certain extent its true.  However, the TRUE most intense pain a man can feel, due presumably to his lack of a heart, is a flat out kick to the balls from a loved one.  This is exactly what Mortal Kombat: Special Forces did to me.  Special Forces is a somewhat bland adventure game based around the franchise’s (arguably) worst character, Jackson “Jax” Briggs.  It was the second venture into a non-fighting game using Mortal Kombat characters and, to be honest, it really looks like they didn’t learn their lessons at all.  Before I go on, I want to point out that the FIRST Mortal Kombat non-fighting game was based on Sub Zero.  The Original Sub Zero that Scorpion killed in the first tournament.  Sub Zero is right up there with the dragon logo as one of the most recognisable symbols in the world of Mortal Kombat.  Mostly because he’s been a fan favourite since day one and he kicks more arse than five hundred people bent over in front of an armless Chuck Norris.  Somehow they managed to turn a game based around Sub Zero into a pile of dog shit.  I guess they thought that using a lamer character would improve the game somewhat.  Did it work?
Hell no.  HELL NO!  Lets have a look at the game.  For starters, you play as Jax.  Jax, as far as Mortal Kombat characters go, is about as colourful as a polar bear in a snow storm with its hands over its face.  He’s a military strongman from the same unit as Sonya Blade who for some unexplained reason is out to get Kano.  In the first game, and for that matter movie, it was explained that Kano killed Sonya’s partner, which I assume is her motivation to go after him.  Jax, as far as I can tell, has nothing against Kano despite him being a murdering scum bag criminal, and is just tagging along in the vague hopes of one day being able to dick Ms. Blade.  However, in this game he’s got a big ol’ personal vendetta.  So when he, with the assistance of his clan of criminals, bust out of prison, Jax makes it his mission to bring them back.  What followed was an incredibly violent adventure consisting entirely of beating up bad guys and solving kindergarten puzzles.  The words “Excessive Force” spring to mind as you watch Jax take town an army of ninjas with a machine gun, but hey if it wasn’t ultraviolent, it wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat, so I can’t be too angry about that.
There are a few charms to this game, Namely the bad guys we haven’t seen before (or for that matter since) No Face and Tremor.  There are Five bosses in the game, the other three being “generic evil girl character”, who was so bland I don’t even remember her name, Jarek, Kano’s replacement for Mortal Kombat 4, and Kano himself.  No Face and Tremor were instrumental in my decision to rent the game, so you can blame them, but really they were the sparkling diamonds in the never ending black sea of shit that was this game.  They were, respectively, a maniac with a flamethrower and no face, and a Lin Kuei ninja with earthquake powers.  In the game, due mainly to the lack of development on all characters sides, including that of the protagonist, i know NOTHING about these two.  What i have been able to acertain is that Tremor’s move set is nearly identical to Jax’s.  Let me just reiterate that, Tremor is really just Jax in a Ninja Costume.  Jax, in a game where he is the main character, goes up against a cooler, more colourful version of himself.  I have no idea why they didn’t stop development then and there.
What hurts the most about this game is it made total sense on paper.   We delve into one of the back stories of MK in an attempt to get an audience to appreciate them all the more.  MKM:SZ had the same idea behind it and on paper it should work, ESPECIALLY with a character like Jax who is less than popular.  If we learned about him deeper than his little 2 page bio from MK2 then maybe we would think he was cooler or something.  Of course, this turned out to be bollocks because if this game is anything to go by, Jax is just a muscle bound Sonya with a cock and black skin, which actually makes him LESS interesting.  I mentioned at the top that I feel this game kicked me in the balls.  Mainly I feel this way because I have come to expect a fairly reasonable standard out of Mortal Kombat games.  More often than not they live up to it in terms of gameplay, depth of character, sense of mysticism and most importantly, fun.  This game let me down in ALL of those areas.  So, I’m going to weigh the game up now, not as a part of Mortal Kombat, but as an ordinary 3d Beat em up.
The controls suck.  Jax handles like a shopping cart and they have a move system similar to that of the other MK games where you hit a few buttons and launch into a special attack, but every time you hit a directional button you move.  What that translates to is you dialing special moves, only to have them miss because they were aimed wrong.  This would be a problem if the AI on the drones didn’t suck so hard that all the time you would have missed, they actually move forward and try to hit you and get hit accidentally by your attack, meaning that rooms of bad guys are dispatched instantly, even if you tried not to hit them.  The voice acting sucks, the puzzles are about as difficult as Britney’s younger sister and, even though I by no means think graphics maketh the game, it looks like they didn’t think they needed to put any different patterns on the wall, and its ok that bad guys can be essentially black, vaguely human shaped blobs.
While researching this game I found out that one of the two fathers of MK had left Midway, um, midway through production.  Apparently the game was going to be more than a slugfest, and go into Sonya’s relationships with both Jax and Kano.  Cameos would include Raiden and a few of the other MK favourites, This would have a better game.  It would have ACTUALLY told a story, it would have shown relationships with the other characters and originally do what THIS game set out to do, make Jax an interesting character.  It’ a shame that a game with such noble intentions turned to a pile of crap before everybody’s eyes.  I should point out that since this little journey downShit Bvd, They released another adventure/beat-em-up based on Mortal Kombat called Shaolin Monks, starring Liu Kang and Kung Lao.  Now I haven’t played this game myself, but all reports suggest it’s 1000% better than Special Forces.  I would like to play it, if for no other reason than to reiterate my love for Liu and Kung, but to be honest, when it comes to MK I don’t care anymore unless its 1 on 1.


And a game i love:
Often when I review things, I give it needlessly harsh criticism.  This often gives people the idea that I hate everything I review.  I don’t, I just hate everything i’ve reviewed so far.  So, as a change of pace, I’ve decided to review something I really like.  Being that the only thing i really enjoy is point and clickers from Lucas Arts, I decided to go through them all one by one, singing their various praises and complaining that there are no games like this any more.  The logical starting place is with a brief History of the Scumm engine and the game it was developed for: Maniac Mansion
The SCUMM engine was a revolution in adventure gaming.  Basically it made the “old” way of interacting with your computer completely redundant.  Previously if you wanted to endure an adventure game, you would need to memorise a whole bunch of stupid command words like “go” or “get”, as well as every object you could interact with eg “east” or “pumpkin”.  The main problem was that it wasn’t very helpful if you didn’t know exactly what you were doing.  To the point where there might be two of the same object on a screen and it might get confused, so you would have to type something like “Get Pumpkin” and it would reply with “you grab the pumpkin for an unknown reason” when you needed the pumpkin loaded with explosives to solve the door locked with no key puzzle.  The SCUMM engine, which was an acronym for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion, looked beside their keyboards and found that the little device with the cord on the end they used and thought: What if all the verbs you needed were all ready for you to click on? This seemingly simple idea had eluded many other programmers and then Lucas copyrighted it.  This is why for nearly 10 years when you thought Adventure Games, you thought Lucas Arts
Needless to say the game, and the engine on which it is built, were amazingly successful.  I’ve sung the engine enough praises, so let’s go on with the game.  The game’s plot revolves around Dave, your typical Jock Arsehole, trying to save Sandy, his dirty cheerleader whore of a girlfriend, from the evil Dr Fred Edison with the help of two of his six friends, all of whom are much more useful than he is.  This makes the first puzzle of the game which two friends are you gonna choose to walk through the game with.  The game, its puzzles and solutions, vary depending on which character you choose.  Each has their own strengths (electronics genius, typist, photographer, ect.) and therefore their own path to the end.  Now admittedly I’m not adept in games pre 1990 as much as I would like to be, but i’m nearly certain this was the first game to offer an alternative path to the solution of a puzzle, meaning that for the first time, there was replay value in a puzzle game.  This in itself puts it miles ahead of any other adventure game out there.  Throughout the course of the game you discover Dr Fred isn’t just a loonie, he’s a loony under the control of a sentient purple meteor with dreams of universal domination.  So, the main mission of the game is to somehow remove the purple meteor from the area (or planet) which you do using one of your characters, thus freeing Fred, Sandy and everyone else goes home happy.
That is, of course unless you somehow manage to piss off the video game and it kills the offending characters.  Unless you’ve finished the game before this can quickly become a hassle, particularly because once they die, all their items (like keys and vital puzzle pieces) go with them.  Of course, once you know how to finish the game, killing the kids is a barrel of fun!   Here are, out of context, a few ways  to get yourself killed:  Microwave some radioactive water, Microwave a hamster and give it back to its owner, Drown a kid in a swimming pool or my personal favourite, play the disembodied tentacle the tape you made of the Tentacle Mating Call and get Hentai-ed.  There are several ways you can end the game in a massive nuclear explosion as well.  If you leave the power off too long, the place suffers a meltdown and explodes.  If you touch the keypad at the security door, the place explodes, ect.  It’s also interesting to note that in nearly all subsequent adventure games, Lucas made it impossible to kill your character or put the game in an unwinnable situation.  This is the fabled Lucas Rule which i will come back to in subsequent reviews.  For now all you really need to know about dying in this game was it took effort on your part to do it.
The other noteworthy thing is that the game is immensely difficult and loaded with “Red Herrings”, the most famous of which was that fucking chainsaw.  I want to point out that in all the promotional stuff for the game, including the title screen, had a chainsaw somewhere, more often than not cutting into the letter N at the end of the title.  So in the kitchen you find a chainsaw, and due to the bombardment of chainsaws you’ve seen in relation to the game, you automatically assume its a vital puzzle piece and will become amazingly useful towards the end of the game.  It doesn’t.  Whenever you try to use it your pussy character says “it’s out of fuel”, which sounds like a launch into ANOTHER puzzle to find the fuel to make the chainsaw run.  There is no fuel anywhere in this game.  The chainsaw just doesn’t run.  It’s a joke item.  It’s an amazingly annoying, frustrating joke, but at the end of the day a damn funny one.  There was also a puzzle involving a can of Pepsi which had a code that was supposed to stop the house from melting down.  It was a total lie, if you tried entering the 1000 digit code you were dead before you hit the fifth digit.  There were THOUSANDS of people who tried this out and failed when all you needed to do was flip a switch.  I’m sure part of this game was a send up of the ridiculously difficult solutions to problems in other developers’ games, but still, it was cruel sometimes.
Speaking of cruel, time has not been kind to this game.  I mean I never once looked at this game as any kind of stunning visual experience, it looked blocky and ugly back in the day, but now it looks as though they weren’t even trying.  Given today’s technology they could very easily render this game better and make it look like a million bucks, but in the end I suppose if you’re playing this game to look at the pretty pictures then you should hand over your computer right now.  The other thing about this game that has always pissed me off was that even though the item you wanted could be seen on the screen when you picked it up, it just became words in your inventory.  So rather than having a picture of a glowing key, the words Glowing Key were in your inventory.  I can’t complain too hard about that because there were more than 50 useless items in the game, all of which could be picked up and would therefore require their own picture, meaning lots of space being taken up on the disc leading to some other vital elements being taken out, so if something had to go, i’m glad it was that.
So, lets get this over with.  The game itself, despite its obscene difficulty, insanely campy plot, ancient graphics and interface and nigh on complete lack of sound is one of the best games you will ever play.  This game is a timeless treasure loaded with pitch black humour, B grade horror and genre defining gameplay.  This game has several endings, bad jokes, and lots and lots of hours of fun built into it.  I highly recommend you check it out.  You can get a ported “remake” with several of the game’s issues ironed out, eg exploitable bugs and crappy graphics, here: http://new.bigbluecup.com/games.php?action=search&sterm=maniac+mansion+deluxe&submit=Search%21

Next up?  A nefarious Nazi pot, a city mythical lost city, a leather hat and a bullwhip.

BE MERCILESS
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